Curriculum Map

How to Build a Curriculum Map

Table of Contents

  1. What is it? Why do it?
  2. What does a curriculum map/matrix look like?
  3. How is a curriculum map created?
  4. What are some best practices?

1. What is it? Why do it?

mapCurriculum mapping is a method to align instruction with desired goals and program outcomes. It can also be used to explore what is taught and how. The map or matrix:

  • Documents what is taught and when.
  • Reveals gaps in the curriculum.
  • Helps design an assessment plan.


  • Improves communication among faculty.
  • Improves program coherence.
  • Increases the likelihood that students will achieve program-level outcomes.
  • Encourages reflective practice.

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2. What does a curriculum map/matrix look like?

It's a table with one column for each learning outcome and one row for each course or required event/experience (or vice versa: each row contains a course and each column lists a learning outcome).


Key: "I"=Introduced; "P"=opportunity to practice; "A"=assessment evidence collected



Student Learning Outcomes


Apply the scientific method Develop laboratory techniques Diagram and explain major cellular processes Analyze and critically evaluate basic biology research literature

BIOL 101




BIOL 202



BIOL 303

P   P


BIOL 404: Capstone


Indirect: Exit Interview


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3. How is a curriculum map created?

  • Faculty members begin with a) the program's intended student learning outcomes, b) recommended and required courses (including General Education courses if appropriate) and c) other required events/experiences (e.g., internships, department symposium, advising session, national licensure exams).
  • Create the "map" in the form of a table. Mark the courses and events/experiences that currently address those outcomes.
    • Enter an "I" to indicate where students are introduced to the outcome.
    • Enter a "P" to indicate where the outcome is reinforced and students afforded opportunities to practice
    • Enter an "A" to indicate where evidence might be collected and evaluated for program-level assessment (collection might occur at the beginning and end of the program if comparisons across years are desired.)
  • Faculty members analyze the curriculum map. They discuss and revise so that each outcome is introduced and practiced. In addition, each outcome should have an "A" to indicate that evidence can be collected for program-level assessment.
  • Good practice dictates at least one direct and one indirect measure for each outcome should be included.

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4. What are some best practices?

  • Build in practice and multiple learning trials for students: introduce, reinforce, master. Students will perform best if they are introduced to the learning outcome early in the curriculum and then given sufficient practice and reinforcement before evaluation of their level of mastery takes place.
  • Use the curriculum map to identify the learning opportunities (e.g., assignments, activities) that align with the program's outcomes.
  • Allow faculty members to teach to their strengths (note: each person need not cover all outcomes in a single course). "Hand off" particular outcomes to those best suited for the task.
  • Ask if the department/program is trying to do too much. Eliminate outcomes that are not highly-valued and then focus on highly-valued outcomes by including them in multiple courses. (The eliminated outcomes can still be course-level outcomes. They need not disappear completely from the curriculum.)
  • Set priorities as a department/program. Everyone working together toward common outcomes can increase the likelihood that students will meet or exceed expectations.
  • Communicate: Publish the curriculum map and distribute to students and faculty.
  • Communicate: Each faculty member can make explicit connections across courses for the students. For example, at the beginning of the course or unit, a faculty member can remind students what they were introduced to in another course and explain how the current course will have them practice or expand their knowledge. Do not expect students to be able to make those connections by themselves.

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(Adapted from the Assessment pages of the University of Hawaii, Manoa)

Image of Question MarkIf you have any questions about assessment of student learning, please contact the OIA Assessment Team